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Update No: 083 - (25/02/10)

There are clear signs that Malikiís popularity is being dented by the resurgence of violence against civilians. He won the provincial elections with a nationalist, all-Iraqi message and a pro-centralisation platform. Aware of his growing weakness, he is going back to exploiting sectarian divisions by trying to mobilise Shiite resentment against former Baathists. His abandonment of non-sectarian nationalism might favour former Prime ministerís Allawi list, which is staunch secularist. It is no chance that individuals on the list are being targeted in assassination and purges. It might be too late, however for Maliki to reclaim a share of the Shiite vote large enough to keep ruling; the two other main Shiite groups, the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, have unsurprisingly formed an alliance which excludes Malikiís group. Both Maliki and the Shiite alliance could be favoured by a growing pro-boycott mood within the ranks of Sunni political groups; even Shiite secularist Allawi is threatening to stop campaigning. It would of course be a pyrrhic victory, but it would suit the Iranians and perhaps Maliki too in that it would derail American plans for a multi-party, balanced parliament in Iraq. The Americans have repeatedly said that successful elections in Iraq are a precondition for the withdrawal of their troops proceeding.

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